Today is my 20th anniversary of deciding to become a vegetarian. I remember it clearly… it was the day of my confirmation into my parent’s ELCA church, and I wasn’t happy. Even as a child I knew I wasn’t Christian, didn’t believe the same as everyone else seemingly did at this church, and I was fine with it. I had my own faith which included Nature, spiritual energy, reincarnation, astrology, numerology, shamanism, spirits and fairies, the Divine Feminine, symbols and dreams and signs, amongst other things. No hell to be sure, no WASP-y bearded God who was variously loving or vindictive, no blaming Eve and, through her, all women, for “sin,” and no one single man whom this manic god favored above all others. Nope, that wasn’t for me.
How does this relate to my becoming vegetarian? Well, by this time I had already been pursuing in earnest my own independent religious education, which included Buddhism, Hinduism, and Paganism. The first and last were by far the ones which called to my heart and soul, and still do. I completely jived with the concept of Nature as sacred and containing a spiritual essence, or many spiritual essences—and this extends to animals. Their right to live a life free of oppression and suffering struck me just as strongly as any human’s right to a free existence. I hated hearing about animal abuse and testing. I couldn’t bear happening upon animals killed by the side of the road and—even now—always keep my eyes peeled when driving. I save spiders and put them outside because it’s not my place to extinguish a life. And if you want to see me cry, just show me a commercial about shelter animals who are never really given a chance. I think you can see where this is going.
Eventually, by my early teens, I realized that eating animals began with killing them, and oftentimes they didn’t die a dignified, quick death, either. How could I justify eating animals if I’d already decided to try not to kill anything? I became aware of my own hypocrisy and decided to take a stand for what I thought was right. I chose the date of my confirmation to begin on the path to vegetarianism. The date was significant to me because well, I REALLY didn’t want to be confirmed into this church that was so different from my own beliefs, and yet I saw no way around it. I loved my family and didn’t know how to reject this event without hurting them. I was also young and didn’t know how to own my power yet. And so I took an important step for me, within my own path, and on my own terms. It was a gradual process: I stopped eating beef and pork that day but continued consuming fish and fowl for another seven years. I had to grow and become confident enough to completely take hold of my power and give up all meat completely, but I did it.
It’s been 20 years since I started on this path—13 since I became a full vegetarian—and I feel happy that my conscience is clear now. The many health benefits (for most people) that accompany this diet are, to me, just a bonus. I know this isn’t a choice everyone will or should make, but it’s definitely been the right choice for me. Even when I make foodie jokes about how bacon makes everything taste better or wonder what cockles taste like, trust me—I’m actually quite comfortable with never eating those things again. I’m healthy, content, still save spiders and moths and walk around ants on the sidewalk. Oh yeah, and I believe in many gods, premonitions, many lives, and the power of free will combined with compassion. Ya dig?